What is the criteria for common law in Alabama?

My father passed away in April 2009. he had a live in girlfriend at the time. He and my mom were divorced at the time. His will named me at the sole heir and personal representative; however, his girlfriend is claiming she is his common law wife. My dad never said he would marry her or anyone else.

Asked on May 25, 2009 under Estate Planning, Alabama


BP, Member, Connecticut Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor


Alabama is one of a handful of states that does recognize common law marriage. However, the requirements are: (1) capacity; (2) an agreement to be husband and wife; and (3) consummation of the marital relationship.  In this case, it doesn't appear that your father ever had an agreement to be husband and wife if he said that he would not marry again. Simply living together – for any amount of time – is not enough.  If the girlfriend contests the will, it's advisable to contact an estate planning attorney to make sure you're covered.

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